During the 23rd meeting of the Working Group of the parties to the Aarhus Convention the participants discussed the problem with retaliation of environmental defenders.
Speakers at the special panel included Mr. Jonas Ebbesson, Chair of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, Mr. Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Sean Lobo, First Secretary, The Mission of Norway to the United Nations in Geneva and Mr. Andriy Andrusevych, Senior Policy Expert, Resource and Analysis Center “Society and Environment”. As civil society representative, Mr.Andrusevych proposed to explore a possibility to set up a special procedure – quick response mechanism to harassment, persecution or penalization of environmental defenders. In his view general compliance mechanism under the convention is not fit to fulfil this role, in particular unable to provide quick response to communications about persecution or penalization of environmental defenders.
Environmental defenders increasingly face risks and are subject to violence around the world. The retaliation may take various forms: from physical violence and murder to media attacks and legal proceedings. In 2017 alone 207 environmental defenders were murdered around the world (as reported by Global Witness).